Terence
Nationality: Roman
Profession/Occupation: Writer
Region: Carthage, Tunisia, Greece?
Notable works: "Adelphi", "Eunuchus", "Hecyra", "Phormio"

Terence Facts

Biography

Terence, Latin in full Publius Terentius Afer, (born c. 195 bc, Carthage, North Africa [now in Tunisia]--died 159? bc, in Greece or at sea), after Plautus the greatest Roman comic dramatist, the author of six verse comedies that were long regarded as models of pure Latin. Terence's plays form the basis of the modern comedy of manners.

Terence was taken to Rome as a slave by Terentius Lucanus, an otherwise unknown Roman senator who was impressed by his ability and gave him a liberal education and, subsequently, his freedom.

Reliable information about the life and dramatic career of Terence is defective. There are four sources of biographical information on him: a short, gossipy life by the Roman biographer Suetonius, written nearly three centuries later; a garbled version of a commentary on the plays by the 4th-century grammarian Aelius Donatus; production notices prefixed to the play texts recording details of first (and occasionally also of later) performances; and Terence's own prologues to the plays, which, despite polemic and distortion, reveal something of his literary career. Most of the available information about Terence relates to his career as a dramatist. During his short life he produced six plays, to which the production notices assign the following dates: Andria (The Andrian Girl), 166 bc; Hecyra (The Mother-in-Law), 165 bc; Heauton timoroumenos (The Self-Tormentor), 163 bc; Eunuchus (The Eunuch), 161 bc; Phormio, 161 bc; Adelphi (or Adelphoe; The Brothers), 160 bc; Hecyra, second production, 160 bc; Hecyra, third production, 160 bc. These dates, however, pose several problems. The Eunuchus, for example, was so successful that it achieved a repeat performance and record earnings for Terence, but the prologue that Terence wrote, presumably a year later, for the Hecyra's third production gives the impression that he had not yet achieved any major success. Yet alternative date schemes are even less satisfactory.

From the beginning of his career, Terence was lucky to have the services of Lucius Ambivius Turpio, a leading actor who had promoted the career of Caecilius, the major comic playwright of the preceding generation. Now in old age, the actor did the same for Terence. Yet not all of Terence's productions enjoyed success. The Hecyra failed twice: its first production broke up in an uproar when rumours were circulated among its audience of alternative entertainment by a tightrope walker and some boxers; and the audience deserted its second production for a gladiatorial performance nearby.

Terence faced the hostility of jealous rivals, particularly one older playwright, Luscius Lanuvinus, who launched a series of accusations against the newcomer. The main source of contention was Terence's dramatic method. It was the custom for these Roman dramatists to draw their material from earlier Greek comedies about rich young men and the difficulties that attended their amours. The adaptations varied greatly in fidelity, ranging from the creative freedom of Plautus to the literal rendering of Luscius. Although Terence was apparently fairly faithful to his Greek models, Luscius alleged that Terence was guilty of "contamination"--i.e., that he had incorporated material from secondary Greek sources into his plots, to their detriment. Terence sometimes did add extraneous material. In the Andria, which, like the Eunuchus, Heauton timoroumenos, and Adelphi, was adapted from a Greek play of the same title by Menander, he added material from another Menandrean play, the Perinthia (The Perinthian Girl). In the Eunuchus he added to Menander's Eunouchos two characters, a soldier and his "parasite"--a hanger-on whose flattery of and services to his patron were rewarded with free dinners--both of them from another play by Menander, the Kolax (The Parasite). In the Adelphi, he added an exciting scene from a play by Diphilus, a contemporary of Menander. Such conservative writers as Luscius objected to the freedom with which Terence used his models.

A further allegation was that Terence's plays were not his own work but were composed with the help of unnamed nobles. This malicious and implausible charge is left unanswered by Terence. Romans of a later period assumed that Terence must have collaborated with the Scipionic circle, a coterie of admirers of Greek literature, named after its guiding spirit, the military commander and politician Scipio Africanus the Younger.

Terence died young. When he was 35, he visited Greece and never returned from the journey. He died either in Greece from illness or at sea by shipwreck on the return voyage. Of his family life, nothing is known, except that he left a daughter and a small but valuable estate just outside Rome on the Appian Way.

Modern scholars have been preoccupied with the question of the extent to which Terence was an original writer, as opposed to a mere translator of his Greek models. Positions on both sides have been vigorously maintained, but recent critical opinion seems to accept that, in the main, Terence was faithful to the plots, ethos, and characterization of his Greek originals: thus, his humanity, his individualized characters, and his sensitive approach to relationships and personal problems all may be traced to Menander, and his obsessive attention to detail in the plots of Hecyra and Phormio derives from the Greek models of those plays by Apollodorus of Carystus of the 3rd century bc. Nevertheless, in some important particulars he reveals himself as something more than a translator. First, he shows both originality and skill in the incorporation of material from secondary models, as well as occasionally perhaps in material of his own invention; he sews this material in with unobtrusive seams. Second, his Greek models probably had expository prologues, informing their audiences of vital facts, but Terence cut them out, leaving his audiences in the same ignorance as his characters. This omission increases the element of suspense, though the plot may become too difficult for an audience to follow, as in the Hecyra.

Striving for a refined but conventional realism, Terence eliminated or reduced such unrealistic devices as the actor's direct address to the audience. He preserved the atmosphere of his models with a nice appreciation of how much Greekness would be tolerated in Rome, omitting the unintelligible and clarifying the difficult. His language is a purer version of contemporary colloquial Latin, at times shaded subtly to emphasize a character's individual speech patterns. Because they are more realistic, his characters lack some of the vitality and panache of Plautus' adaptations (Phormio here is a notable exception); but they are often developed in depth and with subtle psychology. Individual scenes retain their power today, especially those presenting brilliant narratives (e.g., Chaerea's report of his rape of the girl in the Eunuchus), civilized emotion (e.g., Micio's forgiveness of Aeschinus in the Adelphi, Bacchis' renunciation of Pamphilus in the Hecyra), or clever theatrical strokes (e.g., the double disclosure of Chremes' bigamy in the Phormio).

The influence of Terence on Roman education and on the later European theatre was very great. His language was accepted as a norm of pure Latin, and his work was studied and discussed throughout antiquity.

Recommended English translations include the work of Betty Radice, The Brothers and Other Plays (1965), and Phormio and Other Plays (1967), both "Penguin Classics," combined in one volume in 1976. Another useful English translation is The Complete Comedies of Terence: Modern Verse Translations (1974), translated by Palmer Bovie, Constance Carrier, and Douglass Parker and edited by Palmer Bovie. Frank O. Copley's translations were published as Roman Drama: The Plays of Plautus and Terence (1985).

Top 40 Terence quotes

He makes a great mistake... who supposes that authority is firmer or better established when it is founded by force than that which is welded by affection.
Affection
Authority
Better
Established
Force
Founded
Great
He
Makes
Mistake
Than
Which
Who
I hold this as a rule of life: too much of anything is bad.
Anything
Bad
Hold
Life
Much
Rule
Too
Too much
Many a time from a bad beginning great friendships have sprung up.
Bad
Beginning
Friendships
Great
Many
Time
Up
Where there's life, there's hope.
Hope
Life
Where
You believe that easily which you hope for earnestly.
Believe
Earnestly
Easily
Hope
Which
You
Nowadays those are rewarded who make right appear wrong.
Appear
Make
Nowadays
Rewarded
Right
Those
Who
Wrong
How often things occur by mere chance which we dared not even hope for.
Chance
Dared
Even
Hope
How
Mere
Occur
Often
Things
Which
What a grand thing it is to be clever and have common sense.
Clever
Common
Grand
Sense
Thing
You can take a chance with any man who pays his bills on time.
Any
Bills
Chance
His
Man
Pays
Take
Take a chance
Time
Who
You
What harsh judges fathers are to all young men!
Fathers
Harsh
Judges
Men
Young
Young men
You're a wise person if you can easily direct your attention to what ever needs it.
Attention
Direct
Easily
Ever
Needs
Person
Wise
Wise person
You
Your
We are all of us the worse for too much liberty.
Liberty
Much
Too
Too much
Us
Worse
How unfair the fate which ordains that those who have the least should be always adding to the treasury of the wealthy.
Adding
Always
Fate
How
Least
Should
Those
Treasury
Unfair
Wealthy
Which
Who
They are so knowing, that they know nothing.
Know
Knowing
Nothing
Their silence is praise enough.
Enough
Praise
Silence
While the mind is in doubt it is driven this way and that by a slight impulse.
Doubt
Driven
Impulse
Mind
Slight
Way
While
I do not give money for just mere hopes.
Give
Hopes
Just
Mere
Money
Of my friends I am the only one left.
Am
Friends
I am
Left
Only
She ne'er was really charming till she died.
Charming
Died
Really
She
Till
Nothing is said that has not been said before.
Been
Before
Nothing
Said
I am a human being; nothing human can be alien to me.
Alien
Am
Being
Human
Human being
I am
Me
Nothing
Too much liberty corrupts us all.
Corrupts
Liberty
Much
Too
Too much
Us
To touch a sore is to renew one's grief.
Grief
Renew
Sore
Touch
The anger of lovers renews their love.
Anger
Love
Lovers
So many men, so many opinions.
Many
Men
Opinions
Moderation in all things.
All things
Moderation
Things
Lovers quarrels are the renewal of love.
Love
Lovers
Quarrels
Renewal
Fortune favors the brave.
Brave
Favors
Fortune
Extreme law is often extreme injustice.
Extreme
Injustice
Law
Often
I am a man, and whatever concerns humanity is of interest to me.
Am
Concerns
Humanity
I am
Interest
Man
Me
Whatever
There is a demand in these days for men who can make wrong appear right.
Appear
Days
Demand
Make
Men
Right
Who
Wrong
This I consider to be a valuable principle in life: Do no thing in excess.
Consider
Excess
Life
Principle
Thing
Valuable
Children should be led into the right paths, not by severity, but by persuasion.
Children
Led
Paths
Persuasion
Right
Severity
Should
I take it to be a principle rule of life, not to be too much addicted to any one thing.
Addicted
Any
Life
Much
One thing
Principle
Rule
Take
Thing
Too
Too much
They who love dancing too much seem to have more brains in their feet than in their head.
Brains
Dancing
Feet
Head
Love
More
Much
Seem
Than
Too
Too much
Who
For you to ask advice on the rules of love is no better than to ask advice on the rules of madness.
Advice
Ask
Better
Love
Love is
Madness
Rules
Than
You
Human nature is so constituted, that all see and judge better in the affairs of other men than in their own.
Affairs
Better
Human
Human nature
Judge
Men
Nature
Other
Own
See
Than
Riches get their value from the mind of the possessor; they are blessings to those who know how to use them, and curses to those who do not.
Blessings
Curses
Get
How
Know
Mind
Riches
Them
Those
Use
Value
Who
Perhaps believing in good design is like believing in God, it makes you an optimist.
Believing
Design
God
Good
Like
Makes
Optimist
Perhaps
You
In fact nothing is said that has not been said before.
Been
Before
Fact
In fact
Nothing
Said

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